Before you buy a home, it’s very important to conduct a home inspection. While laws vary from state to state, in general, home inspectors are licensed and insured, undergoing certification hours and participating in continuing education about the latest in building codes and standards. Most are what’s referred to as “expert generalists,” meaning that these individuals are not, per se, experts in one trade, such as electrical systems, but do have an understanding of what is and isn’t acceptable.
When to Schedule a Home Inspection
The best time to schedule a home inspection is after the acceptance of your purchase offer. That purchase offer should include a key contingency, which states that you are able to walk away from the deal should the inspection reveal problems. Practically every residential real estate purchase offer has such a contingency, as well as others, such as title defects, financing approval, and appraisal value being at parity or above the purchase price.
“Before purchasing a house, it’s important to hire a home inspector to evaluate the home from bottom to top—including the attic. This often-overlooked storage space can provide visual cues to potential problems in the safety and structural integrity of a home. If there is damage present, the inspection can help you determine what to bring into the sale negotiations, including an estimate of repair costs.” –Realtor.com
After the seller accepts your purchase agreement, you should begin to contact a few different inspectors. Ask family, friends, and coworkers for referrals. You should also check the status of each inspector’s licensing, as well as the local Better Business Bureau. Other prudent step is to conduct an online search of the local clerk of the court’s office to see if any of the names appear as defendants in real estate transactions.
Items Most Import in a Home Inspection
The home inspection is intended to find problems with the home you are purchasing. During the time of the inspection, the most important items scrutinized are as follows:
- Plumbing. From blocked drain lines to amateur work to deteriorated lines, the plumbing in the home gets a big workout each and every day and might have one or more of these costly problems lurking in unseen areas.
- Electrical system. One of the most problematic areas in houses is amateur electrical wiring, particularly with lighting and fans. Homeowners often go the DIY route, which usually means not following codes and increasing the probability of electrical fires.
- Foundation. Just a small crack in an exterior wall can be a telltale sign of big time problems with the home’s structural integrity. Doors and windows which do not close are likewise a sign that something might be wrong. Though plumbing and electrical problems can be expensive, structural damage easily trumps them as a large expense fix.
- Roof. Problems with a roof run the gamut and can be quite small. The thing about a tiny leak is, it’s easy to miss because of its inconspicuousness. A good home inspector will discover these and that’s a great thing because leaks only get larger, often causing damage to the insulation and then to the ceiling.
- Major appliances. The home’s central heating and air are just one of the many major appliances which are generally included in the inspection. Others are water heaters, stoves, fireplaces, refrigerators, dishwashers, and some inspectors will even check garbage disposals and trash compactors. If the inspector doesn’t include all the major appliances, don’t be afraid to turn them on or open them up.
Another area that is very important is the attic. This storage area, sometimes transformed into a bedroom or office, is a place where three telltale signs can be found by a home inspector. These include structural damages to the trusses and rafters. Fire damage and leak damage will be evident here, as will in the insulation. Speaking of insulation, this should be up-to-date to provide maximum energy efficiency. The chimney and storage areas will also have their own telltale signs, which the inspector will include in his report.